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Pakistan playing both sides: Gates

world Updated: May 19, 2009 00:45 IST

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Observing that Pakistan is "playing both sides", US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Monday said Islamabad commits itself to be part of the US-led war against terrorism in the region but continues to maintain links with the extremist elements.

"Look, their maintaining contact with this group, in my view, is a strategic hedge," Gates told the CBS news in an interview responding to a question that parts of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence are still servicing support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"They (Pakistan) are not sure who's going to win in Afghanistan. They're not sure what's going to happen along that border area. So to a certain extent they play both sides," Gates said.

This is not for the first time that a top US leader has made such an observation.

Top US leaders in the past several months have openly stated and expressed concern that that the Pakistan Army, especially its ISI, has been maintain contacts with the Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and providing them support against the US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in an interview to Fareed Zakaria's GPS on the CNN, former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had cautioned the US leaders not to be highly critical of the ISI and the Pakistan Army, as it is only they who can deliver in the war against terrorism.

"At this moment, we are lucky. The world is lucky that we have this army and the ISI. Now, instead of weakening them, abusing them, criticizing them, we must strengthen them," he said.

"Because if they don't deliver, who else is going to deliver? We'll all fail. So, therefore, don't criticise the ISI and army. They are suffering with all this, and yet going ahead," Musharraf added.